La Via Campesina 8th International Conference


By Mollie Wills and Jordan Treakle

In early December 2023, National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC) took part in the 8th International Conference of La Via Campesina, in Bogota, Colombia, joining 185 member other organizations from 83 countries. La Via Campesina (LVC), often referred to as the world’s largest social movement representing over 200 million farmers, peasant, fisherfolk, pastoralists, and other food providers, celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2022, and continues to be the leading organization for rural community advocacy globally. NFFC was represented by Mollie Wills (Rural Vermont) and Jordan Treakle (NFFC), who joined other North American-based delegates from allied organizations Family Farm Defenders, Farmworker Association of Florida, Union Paysanne, and the National Farmers Union (Canada). 

The key message resonating throughout the conference from more than 400 delegates affirmed that:

“We, the peasants, rural workers, landless, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, artisanal fisherfolk, forest dwellers, rural women, youth and diversities and other peoples who work in the countryside around the world and united within La Via Campesina, declare that “Faced with global crises, we build food sovereignty to ensure a future for humanity!”

LVC’s International Conferences, which typically take place every four years, are important organizing moments for a number of reasons. New leaders of the global Secretariat are affirmed (in this case the LVC Secretariat’s move from Zimbabwe to France was celebrated), international policy and campaign strategies are charted, and, perhaps most importantly, a strong web of relationships and solidarity is formed across territorial, cultural, and linguistic boundaries. 

Before the official start of the 8th Conference, hundreds of delegates gathered at meetings of the LVC Youth and Women’s Articulations to celebrate historical moments, offer trainings, and craft strategic frameworks and plans of action for Food Sovereignty.  The first-ever convening of the new Anti-patriarchy and Gender Diversities organizing space occurred, lifting up the gender equity and feminist work within our movement. These gatherings not only set the tone for the Conference, but also marked important evolutions of the food sovereignty movement to be more inclusive and address the broader power imbalances within our movement and organizations. 

The Conference began by welcoming new member organizations from Europe, Asia-Pacific, and North Africa, and celebrating the integration of the new Arab/North African region of La Via Campesina. As the global network grew with new organizations and regions, the orientation and culture of the event and space was embedded in the Colombian territory that was hosting us. The Colombian government hosted a welcoming event, and we were treated to a presentation of historical political economy analysis of the region, as well as dance, music, and theatrical performances. 

Over the course of the 10 days, additional plenaries and presentations focused on building strategic alliances, planning for the global Nyeleni process, and strengthening the principles and organizational structure of the food sovereignty movement. Working groups brainstormed and constructed concrete action plans around agroecology and agrarian reform, the climate crisis, migration, public policies and trade, and the fight against all forms of violence, criminalization, and militarization in rural areas. 

Each day the Conference opened and closed with a heartfelt mistica offered by different LVC regions that invited connection, growth, and inspiration in shared struggle. Cultural events dispersed throughout our time together allowed for delegates and supporters to share laughter, food, music and dance as we honored and celebrated the land and those who work it, and strengthened our commitment to food sovereignty and each other. 

The Maria Cando Agroecology School

The 8th Conference concluded with a number of field visits to nearby farms and food sovereignty projects. Representatives from NFFC stayed for a few extra days of solidarity farm work at the Maria Cando Agroecology School south of Bogota, hosted by local La Via Campesina member organization FENSUAGRO.

Connected through shared struggle and the fight for food sovereignty, agrarian people and their allies from across the globe used our time together at the 8th Conference to tend to and build relationships amongst each other. We affirmed our united vision for a just and decent food system for all that recognizes peoples’ needs, respects nature, puts people before profit, and resists corporate capture. As National Family Farm Coalition, we reaffirm our commitment to this work as members of La Via Campesina and the global community. Together, we tend to the seeds of tomorrow.